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Marathon Training: Recovery is essential for Improvement

With less than four weeks left until the 2014 BMW BERLIN MARATHON the final training phase is now in full swing – higher mileages, increased training frequency and a higher percentage of  runs at marathon race pace.  In order to adapt to the strain of this training load a suitable recovery strategy is essential. Otherwise, a weakened immune system or injury as a result of overloading the musculoskeletal system may lead to involuntary interruption of training. Without sufficient time for recovery between training sessions there will be no progress in performance.

Most marathon runners meticulously follow a well-structured training schedule to achieve an optimal balance between increasing and decreasing loads.  Nevertheless, everyone should listen to his or her body.  Those who feel extremely flat, tired and unmotivated before training had best put in an extra recovery day as well as easy sessions on the following days. So far science has been unable to establish a reliable procedure for measuring our recovery status.  In this context an increased resting heart rate after waking up in the morning and/or muscle aches are important warning signs. 

It is difficult to calculate the recovery rate as the restoration of carbohydrate reserves, protein stores and so forth all require different lengths of time. The speed at which our bodies can recover is dependent on a number of factors that include predisposition, age, fitness level, and the previous training session.  Even a structured marathon preparation which allows for adequate recovery will have days in which you feel tired while running. Complete recovery and carbo-loading is only intended to occur during what is known as tapering in the last couple of weeks before the marathon.


Tips for optimising your recovery


  • After a long run on the weekend and intensive interval/tempo training have a rest day or do a regenerative session.


  • Avoid making changes to your training schedule, in particular those regarding the sequence of sessions.


  • Don’t try to squeeze in or catch up on missed training sessions.


  • Pay attention to nutrition: maintain a healthy and balanced diet, be sure to replenish carbohydrate and protein stores and compensate for fluid losses directly after training.


  • Get enough good quality sleep.


  • Apply gentle physiotherapy or self-massage as complementary training aids


  • Do not train with illness (e.g. the flu) or injury, seek timely medical advice


Matthias Jaworski
SMS Medical Institute